The emotional and the structural

In the next week we are going to see a disconnect between the emotional and the structural views of politics – and the media’s capacity to understand which is which – as the Brexit referendum result becomes known.

The blog has previously written about the paradox that the people most likely to vote Leave are older people, while those most likely to vote Remain are most likely to be young and less likely to vote of which more later.

The murder of the Labour MP, Jo Cox, by a neo-Nazi (that seems to be the case at present) is one of those dramatic events which can swing elections and might swing this. While campaigning has been suspended as a result, the reality is that many in both the Remain and the Leave campaign will be busily discussing what it means and trying desperately not to say anything which exposes them for doing exactly that.

Ms Cox seems to be the sort of person the blog would have been glad to have met and to vote for – just as she was the sort of ‘do-gooder’ person who would have been, before she was murdered, the sort of person many Tories would have held in contempt.

Neo-Nazis are on the march throughout Europe and the UK’s skinhead thugs may well be banned again from travelling to Europe for football matches. They have been encouraged, just as Enoch Powell encouraged an earlier generation, by people who should have known better – as de Gaulle said about Robert Brasillach. Equally a Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in messianic mood, conspired with George W. Bush to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and now warns about ‘radical Islam’. Just as, in the 1930s (with the honourable exception of Churchill and few others) the Tory party was full of Nazi sympathisers and it was touch and go whether Churchill or an appeaser might have succeeded Chamberlain.

Consistent with all this there will this week be many faux tears and much hypocrisy – just as there was back then. Rupert Murdoch’s UK outlets might even launch a fund-raising campaign for Ms Cox’s family. David Cameron will be portentous, George Osborne will be devious and Jeremy Corbyn will probably be excoriated when he tries to raise some legitimate questions about it all.

But to be ruthlessly pragmatic, if the Remain team wins, the media will generally see the murder as decisive. Yet what has been given less coverage is that, in the days leading up to the closing date for enrolments, the UK Electoral Commission’s website crashed because of the huge amount of traffic. (The UK, after all, pioneered large scale IT disasters before Malcolm Turnbull’s new Office of Technology had experienced its first.) As a result the Commission extended the registration period and, it appears, registrations among the under 35s were responsible for most of the new entrants to the roll.

We cannot know the outcome. As J.K. Galbraith said, after constant questioning for journalists about an election outcome, ask me when it’s over. The blog suspects Remain might now win – for the structural reasons. But if Ms Cox gets the credit one hopes it will be a long time after her children have gone before the revisionists explain otherwise.